GBI RACING

Willie Mullins sends Djakadam in pursuit of Paris prize

Djakadam heads back to his native France (Niall Carson/PA)

Djakadam returns to his native France for the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris at Auteuil on Sunday.

Still only a nine-year-old, he has been in training with Willie Mullins since his juvenile hurdle days and had just the one run in France in April 2012, for Arnaud Chaille-Chaille.

He has been ultra-reliable in that time and has won a Thyestes Chase and two John Durkans, but is probably better known for finishing second in two Cheltenham Gold Cups.

Last season was his first without a win for Mullins, although on his most recent outing he finished second in the Punchestown Gold Cup for the fourth time.

Guillaume Macaire’s So French is going for a hat-trick in a race which has proved elusive to foreign raiders ever since the great Mandarin was successful in 1962.

Assistant trainer Patrick Mullins said: “We all know the story of Fred Winter and Mandarin and it would be fabulous to emulate that.

“The jumps are unique, the full ditch, the water jump and the rail ditch down the back straight.

“He’s been placed in several English and Irish Gold Cups, he’s a good jumper so hopefully he’ll take to the obstacles.

“The trip is a slight unknown, but he has run well over three-mile-two at Cheltenham and they tend to go slower in France which will give him a chance of getting it.”

Mullins runs four in the Grande Course de Haies D’Auteuil, viewed as the French Champion Hurdle and a race the Closutton maestro has won four times already.

Coquin Mans, Yorkhill, Killultagh Vic and Bapaume are joined by Nick Williams’ Tea For Two and last year’s winner L’Ami Serge from Nicky Henderson’s yard.

“Killultagh Vic has just struggled with his jumping on his last two runs so the French hurdles, which are like baby fences, might just suit him,” said Mullins.

“He wasn’t very fluent at Cheltenham or Punchestown so the smaller obstacles might allow him to show the best of his ability.

“We’ve endured a frustrating season with Yorkhill. He’s blessed with so much ability, but we haven’t been able to get him to unlock it. We can’t find any obvious reason why.

“He’s not the most natural jumper so we’re hoping these obstacles might help him, too.

“Coquin Mans was impressive at Fairyhouse, but we’ll just draw a line through his run at Punchestown, he was beaten at halfway.

“He’s come out of that fine so we’ll let him take his chance as his Fairyhouse form is solid.

“Bapaume was a Grade One winner last year, but has endured that tricky five-year-old season.

“He ran well behind Apple’s Jade and Supasundae at Christmas, but hasn’t been able to reproduce that. If he can return to that he’s entitled to his place.”

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